Minor League History: Eastern Shore League (1937-1941)

The second edition of the Eastern Shore League started in 1937 and ran through the 1941 season. Just like the first edition (1922-1928) the league was located on the Delmarva Peninsula which is the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Once again the league had a class D classification.

Cities represented:

Cambridge, MD: Cambridge Cardinals 1937-1939; Cambridge Canners 1940-1941;
Centreville, MD: Centreville Colts 1937-1939; Centreville Red Sox 1940-1941;
Crisfield, MD: Crisfield Crabbers 1937
Dover, DE: Dover Orioles 1937-1940
Easton, MD: Easton Browns 1937; Easton Cubs 1938; Easton Yankees 1939-1941
Federalsburg, MD: Federalsburg Little A’s 1937-1941
Milford, DE: Milford Giants 1938-1941
Pocomoke City, MD:  Pocomoke City Red Sox 1937-1939
Salisbury, MD: Salisbury Indians 1937-1938; Salisbury (MD) Senators 1939; Salisbury Cardinals1 940-1941

If you wanted, you could buy a share in local ball clubs. This one is of the 1937 Dover Orioles

Perhaps the most remarkable team of the league was the Salisbury Indians. In the 1937 season, the team was forfeited twenty-one victories because of violations of the league’s veteran player limit. Newspaper heads shouted: “Salisbury Is Penalized For Breaking Rules. Club Is Now At The Bottom Of The List.”  The club went from a 21-5 record to a 0-26 record, but despite the forfeited games the team still won the regular season and moved on to the play offs in which they beat the Cambridge Cardinals 2-1 in the semi-finals and the Centreville Colts 3-2.  The Sporting News named their manager, Jake Flowers, minor league manager of the year.

Newspaper article about the 1937 Salisbury Indians

The Indians, who were an affiliation of the Washington Senators, repeated in 1938. In the five years of this edition most teams were named after their parent clubs. There were a few exceptions though: the Crisfield Crabbers, the Centreville Colts and the Pocomoke City Chicks for example.  The Dover Orioles were the only club that was affiliated to a minor league club, the Baltimore Orioles of the International League.

In 1939 the Federalsburg A’s won the regular season but fell 3-0 to the Dover Orioles, who fell to the Cambridge Cardinals on their turn by 4 games to 2.

 

Federal Field in Federalsburg. Note the light towers in foul territory. 

Here is some footage of the Federalsburg A’s as the wife of Bucky Detweiler tells about the days of the A’s:

Often you hear about the sucess stories of former minor league players that end up in the Bigs. But most of the time, minor league players did not make it to the majors. In the year that the Federalsburg A’s won the regular season, Les Hinckle won 27 games. You’d expect that someone like Hinckle would get a shot, but that never happened to him. He worked his way through the minor leagues and won twelve games with AAA Syracuse in 1941 but that did not bring much to him, so he retired after the 1942 seaseon with a life time record of 58-36 in 126 games.

1940 runners up, the Milford Giants

The Salisbury Cardinals won the 1940 pennant by beating the Milford Giants 4-2.
The final championship (1941) of the second run was won by the Easton Yankees who beat the Milfor Giants 4-3.

One of the future Major League players was Carl Furillo, the famed right fielder of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who played with the club from 1946 and moved with the club to Los Angeles where he played his last game in 1960. Furillo started his professional career with Parnellthe Pomoke City Chicks in 1940 for a salary of $80 per month. In his first year as a pro he hit .319. Even better averages in the next two years brought him to the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ top farm team in 1942.

Another future Major Leaguer that joined the Eastern Shore League was Mel Parnell, who pitched for theCentreville Red Sox in 1941. Parnell worked his way through the Red Sox organization and debuted with Boston in 1947. His final MLB season was in 1956. Parnell led the American League with 25 wins in 1949 and in 1953 he won 21 games. In 1956 Parnell threw a no-hitter in 1956 in which the Red Sox beat the White Sox 4-0.

Bob Maier played for the Salisbury Cardinals in 1940. In that season he led the Eastern Shore League with  146 hits. Due to the lack of players during the years of WWII, he debuted with the Detroit Tigers in 1945 and became their everyday third baseman. In the World Series, he had one pinch hit appearance in which he doubled. After the war was over, many players returned and Maier lost his roster spot after the roster was reshuffled when Hank Greenberg returned from a four year tour of duty.

Joe Ostrowski was a promising pitcher in the minor leagues whose career started in a strange way. After graduating 1938, he became a teacher before he was signed as an amateur free agent by the Boston Red Sox. In 1941 he was sent to the Centreville Red Sox of the Eastern Shore League. In that year he would post a 10-4 record with a 1.77 ERA (a league best). After three years with the US Airforce (1943-1945), Joe returned home and played the 1946 and 1947 season for the Louisville Colonels. Eventually he was traded to the St. Louis Browns in a mega trade that sent six players and $310,000 to the Browns in exchange for only two players.
With the Browns he debuted in 1948 and posted a 4-6 record with a 5.97 ERA. In 1950 he was traded to the Yankees where he was part of the dominant teams that won five World Series in a row. With the Yankees he was mainly used as a reliever. In 1952 he pitched his final game with the Bronx Bombers, ending his five year MLB career. In 1953 he played one more season with the Los Angeles Angels (PCL) before retiring from baseball and returning to his old high school where he worked as a teacher until his retirement.

In Cambridge there was nationwide known company that canned all kinds of food, especially soup and oysters. After the Cambridge team wasn’t affiliated with the Cardinals anymore, the team returned to their old name from the previous run of the Eastern Shore League, which was canners. It is very likely that the name was derived from the Phillips canning company,for which Cambridge was known for.

In 1937, a 19-year old phenom, named Ken Raffensberger pitched a whopping 298 innings in only a 96-game season, setting a league record. Raffensberger went on to have a 15-year Major League career. He debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals, only two seasons after he played in the Eastern Shore League.

After the 1941 season the league would not return due to the US war effort, like most minor leagues. But in 1941 the league faced a deteriorating number of fans and thus faced financial problems. Perhaps the league would not have returned anyway in 1942. The empty stadiums of the Eastern Shore League were used as spring training facilities by more Northern Minor League Clubs.

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